Businesses still setting themselves up for a fall

Article date: 8 May 2006

According to Norwich Union businesses are still flouting thelaw and causing accidents – even in trades not considered“high risk” – a year on from the Working atHeight Regulations.

The UK’s largest insurer has found that serious falls atwork are not confined to the high risk trades such as roofing andscaffolding, but frequently involve people working in decorating,building and farming.

Phil Grace, Norwich Union’s casualty risk manager, says:“Our own files reveal the human cost of falls, and oftenfrom unlikely places.

“Painters and decorators fall from ladders more oftenthan people would imagine, and the resulting broken ankles andwrists can put workers out of action permanently. We have alsoseen falls from simple equipment such as ladders result in braindamage.

“In the building trade falls from scaffold do happen, butalso more unusual accidents, such as the builder – nowparaplegic - who was working in windy conditions and was literallyblown off the platform while handling plywood sheets.

“And on farms, it has become common for people to belifted up using pallets or potato boxes balanced on fork lifttrucks, which is clearly unsuitable. One employee was cuttingtrees while being raised up in a skip and his fall rendered himtetraplegic.”

The Working at Height regulations make managers responsible forcontrolling the risks of working at height, by assessing risk,avoiding work at height where possible, taking measures to preventfalls from ladders, scaffolding, and access platforms includingproper maintenance of access equipment such as cradle andhydraulic lift systems.

In addition, the law removed the old ‘two-metre’limit, therefore redefining working at height to include anyactivity carried out above ground level.

Now the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is actively pursuingthose who breach the regulations, issuing numerous prohibition andimprovement notices to businesses.

The HSE’s investigations show poor practices prevalent inindustries such as manufacturing of paints, plastics and chemicals;wholesalers of china, glass, chemicals and pharmaceuticals andfreight transport operators. Risky activities have included the useof unguarded loading bays, mezzanine floors without fenced edgesplus people working on top of storage tanks and road tankers.

For more information about working at height visit:


For further information, please contact:
Jon Clements at Staniforth on 0161 274 0100/ 07989 414486 or SallyLeeman at Norwich Union on 01603 684225/ 07800 699670.

Notes to editors
About Norwich Union Insurance

  • Norwich Union is the UK's largest insurer with a market shareof around 14 per cent
  • With a focus on insurance for individuals and smallbusinesses, Norwich Union insures:
    • One in five households
    • One in seven motor vehicles
    • Around 800,000 businesses
  • Norwich Union products are available through a variety ofdistribution channels including brokers, corporate partners suchas banks and building societies and Norwich Union Direct.
  • Aviva, Norwich Union’s parent company, announced itsacquisition of the RAC in 2005. The acquisition brings togetherthe RAC's powerful brand and customer base with the expertise andleading position in motor insurance of Norwich UnionInsurance#
  • Norwich Union's news releases and a selection of images areavailable on the Aviva internet press centre at
  • An ISDN facility is available for studio quality broadcast.Call the press office on 01603 682264

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